Relationship Tips

‘I’m a Couples Therapist, and These Are 3 Things I Would Never Do in a Committed Relationship’

Photo: Stocksy/Martí Sans
Listening when your partner speaks, showing affection, supporting them through tough times—these are all well-known hallmarks of being a good partner. But even if you're doing all the right things in a relationship, it's possible that you're doing some not-so-great things, too, which can sneakily sabotage the partnership from within. That’s why it may be just as important to consider what to do as it is what not to do in a relationship, in order to preserve its longevity.

In many cases, learning what not to do in a relationship is about avoiding actions that could interfere with the sense of emotional safety you’re aiming to create, says couples therapist Genesis Games, LMHC. “I work with couples to help them feel reconnected and learn how to communicate openly and vulnerably,” she says. But if either or both partners consistently act in a way that blocks vulnerability from the jump, that’s a much more difficult endeavor, she adds.

To that end, Games has a few thoughts on what she would not ever do in a relationship—and you'd be wise to follow her lead.

3 things that a couples therapist would not do in a committed relationship

1. Act like a private detective

You likely already know that snooping on a partner crosses a boundary, which can violate trust. But according to Games, there’s an even more imminent reason why you should not play detective in a relationship: It’ll take a toll on your mental health.

“If you feel like you have to go through a partner's text messages and emails and phone records, or you have to follow people, and try to piece together a narrative of what your partner may or may not be doing, you really have to stop and evaluate if you want to be in this relationship, and how all of this detective action might be affecting your ability to show up in other parts of your life,” says Games. “How is your choice to invest energy into being a private investigator affecting your relationships with your friends, coworkers, or kids?”

Rather than snooping when the opportunity presents itself, Games suggests pausing to do some introspection. “Perhaps there is something that your partner is doing that doesn’t feel right or is triggering a sense of insecurity or jealousy in you,” she says. In that case, she suggests identifying what that behavior may be, then having a blunt conversation with your partner about what alternative expectations you have for their actions in order to feel safe and trust them.

“Having had previous relationships where infidelity took place or witnessing infidelity at home could lead you to expect the same from your current relationship.” —Genesis Games, LMHC, couples therapist

In other cases, you might realize that the insecurity you feel may be arising from somewhere within you, rather than from something your partner is doing, says Games. “Having had previous relationships where infidelity took place, or witnessing infidelity at home, could lead you to expect the same from your current relationship,” she says, as an example. That might lead you to play detective even when there's no real reason to suspect your partner is hiding anything.

In these scenarios, simply recognizing the source of your feelings and, again, talking with your partner about what they might do to quell your insecurities would be a wiser course of action than snooping. This is also where talk therapy can come into play, says Games, as it may be necessary to process negative relationship experiences from your past in order for you to feel fully comfortable with your current partner.

2. Fake an orgasm (unless you gain pleasure from doing so)

While it’s certainly okay to fake an orgasm if it brings you pleasure (or in scenarios where your safety or security may be at risk otherwise), Games never suggests faking an orgasm in a committed relationship. “Sex is an important aspect of romantic relationships, and couples that have satisfying sex lives also talk about sex,” says Games. Chances are, if you’re faking an orgasm—and, in turn, faking the experience of pleasure—you’re likely not talking about what it is that actually fires you up.

“It’s helpful to give each other feedback on what turns you on and off and to navigate sexual challenges together in a gentle, transparent, and non-judgmental way,” says Games. “Sex is a skill that needs to be worked on throughout the relationship, but it can only improve if you’re talking about it.”

3. Power through an argument at night

You may have heard the popular refrain that you should never go to bed angry. Well, Games disagrees when it comes to relationship conflict. She recommends tabling an argument or difficult conversation at night, particularly on a work night, when you may be exhausted from the day. “In that mindset, you’re just not going to be able to really think and process what your partner is trying to tell you, and then come up with a solution or plan of action,” she says.

In fact, making yourself “go through this marathon or pushing yourself to your limit in trying to keep track of what your partner is saying and respond could lead you to just say ‘yes’ or agree to something in an effort to appease them or end the conversation,” says Games. The result? You don’t end up actually dealing with the core issue at hand—which could just surface again the next day or week. “Then, your partner is likely to be caught by surprise, thinking, ‘Oh, I thought we were on the same page,’ or ‘You said this was okay, and I moved forward, but now it’s two weeks later, and I’m hearing about this again. What happened?’” says Games.

Instead, when faced with a draining nighttime argument, she suggests saying, “I don’t have the capacity at this time to really take in what you’re saying, but I know that what you’re saying is important, so could we put a pause on this conversation for now?” In this case, yes, you may go to bed angry—but you can also plan to discuss the issue and come up with a functional solution or fair compromise when you’re both in a well-rested headspace, she says.

Just don't table the conversation without an agreed-upon time to resume it. “Set a specific time—like, ‘Tomorrow at seven, after I get out of the gym, we’ll talk about this,’” says Games. “This helps to hold all parties accountable to come back to the conversation, so that it doesn’t just get swept under the rug.” Also, this ensures that your partner is not left in limbo waiting for resolution. “You want to be mindful of them and give them the peace of mind that this is something you’re still committing to resolving together,” says Games.

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